A man has been charged in a Saturday, March 30th crash on York Street in Aiken in which a woman was killed.
Thomas Woodruff Jr., of Aiken, has been charged with Careless Driving, Section 42-20 of the City of Aiken Code of Ordinances. The charges have been filed following the fatal vehicle collision which occurred on March 30, 2013, and resulted in the death of Ms. Lukisha Thomas of Aiken, and critically injured Mr. Ray Wooden Jr. of Aiken.
The Aiken Department of Public Safety has expressed their condolences to the family of Ms. Lukisha Thomas and hope for a full and complete recovery for Mr. Wooden.
Investigators say Woodruff was the driver of a 2006 Jeep Cherokee travelling northbound on York Street NE, which left the roadway, and struck Thomas and Wooden as they were walking southbound on the sidewalk.
During the investigation, officers conducted a technical reconstruction of the collision. Throughout the collision reconstruction process officers examined evidence from the collision, analyzed data collected from the forensic mapping of the collision scene, and interviewed several witnesses and the driver of the vehicle.
Investigating officers were able to rule out alcohol and/or drug impairment of Woodruff based on the observations of multiple officers on scene, who have been trained in Advanced DUI Detection, and through independent toxicology reports. The toxicology report indicated negative results in Woodruff's system for alcohol and/or drugs.
During the investigation officers were able to rule out excessive speed as a contributing factor by using linear momentum, kinetic energy, and time and distance equations. This determination was based on the analysis of evidence and measurements collected from the scene.
In addition to ruling out alcohol and/or drugs, and speeding as contributing factors, officers found no indication that the use of a cellular phone or texting played a part in the collision.
After reviewing the evidence, and interviewing several witnesses to the collision, the investigating officers found no evidence that Woodruff was driving with "willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property", otherwise known as "Reckless Driving" or "Reckless Vehicular Homicide" as defined in the South Carolina Code of Laws, Section 56-5-2920 and 56-5-2910 respectively.
In addition to the lack of evidence to support a "Reckless Driving" or "Reckless Vehicular Homicide" charge, investigating officers found no evidence of criminal negligence by Woodruff. Criminal negligence must exist in order to be charged with the crime of "Involuntary Manslaughter" according to South Carolina Code of Laws Section 16-3-60. Criminal negligence is defined as "the reckless disregard of the safety of others."
After reviewing the available evidence in the case, and consultation with the Aiken County Solicitor's Office and the City of Aiken Solicitor, it was determined that the charge of "Careless Driving" as defined in the City of Aiken Code of Ordinances, Section 42-40 was the most appropriate charge currently available under state and local laws.
The Careless Driving ordinance reads that "It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle in a careless manner in disregard of the safety of persons or property upon any street, sidewalk, alley or parking area, public or private, within the corporate limits of the city".
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